Saturday, June 22, 2013

Cloth Diapering - The Why



I need to start this first post with a disclaimer - I am not a cloth diapering expert! All I know is what I have experience with, which obviously is not everything. I have had several friends ask me in the recent past about why and how we cloth diaper, and the questions have included everything from stigmas about cloth diapering to how I keep up with all the "extra" laundry cloth diapering creates.

So today, I'm going to address the "why" - the why behind our choice to cloth diaper. We cloth diaper to save money. It really is as simple as that for us. I'm not about destroying the earth or anything, but environmental concerns are secondary for us. We choose to use disposable diapers at night (because we only use one - Maggie sleeps through the night for 12 hours each night.) We choose to use disposable diapers when we are going to be out and about for a long while (like out to eat with family or at church.) But even with using disposable diapers, we still only buy a small package every few months. 30 (sometimes 31) disposable diapers a month for nighttime sleep, plus maybe 10 for when we are out and about is only about 40 diapers a month. At the rate I have to change Maggie's diaper during the day (6-7 times on average,) if we weren't using cloth diapers, I would have to buy 196 extra diapers a month. If you multiply that by 12 (months in a year) you end up with 2352 extra diapers. I buy my diapers at a local grocery store called Meijer. I buy the store brand and pay $14.99 for a package of 96 disposable diapers. That ends up being about $0.16 a diaper. If I were buying an extra 2352 disposable diapers every year, I would be paying an extra $376.32 a year for diapers. That doesn't sound like a ton, but I'd prefer to keep that money in my pocket, thank-you-very-much. That's not a totally accurate number, either, because I'm not factoring the little months when diapers get changed around 8-12 times a day. So the cost for diapers per year would be a lot more.

A lot of people are concerned about the cost that gets factored in for water, heat to dry the inserts, and the cloth diaper detergent. I suppose water could be a very real cost concern for people. I have 40 diapers and do at least two loads of cloth diapers every week (not because I run out, but because I think it's a little gross to just let them sit around wet or dirty.) Our water is free because we have a well. Soooo worth it in terms of cost in the long run. We pay nothing for water. We pay a minimal amount for gas for the dryer because I line dry the diapers (outside if it's nice, and inside if it's not.) I line dry the inserts, too. As for the cloth diaper detergent, I bought 3 boxes of bumGenius cloth diaper detergent (64 oz.) on amazon.com before Maggie was born. I'm not even halfway through the first box and she's 18 months old! I only use a 1/4 scoop or a 1/2 scoop per wash, depending on the wash size.

The initial cost up front for our diapers was around $719.80 for 40 bumGenius 4.0 One Size pocket diapers.  We had a very generous family, though, who paid almost the whole amount, either with gift cards, cash gifts, or just buying us diapers. So we spent virtually nothing to build our cloth diaper stash. Even if we had to buy our own, we were prepared to shell out the cash up front, because we plan to use these diapers for more than one child. Bean is due in October 2013 and we plan to cloth diaper at least that baby, and hopefully two more. This post estimates that a family will need 2912 diapers a year for their child. At our rate of about $0.16 per diaper, that would cost our family $465.92 a year. Maggie is 18 months old and is in diapers and potty-training is not even on the horizon. If we had used disposable diapers exclusively up until now, we would have spent $698.88 on diapers (18 months of disposable diapering.) She will most likely be in diapers until she is at least 2. We will have a newborn when she turns 22 months. I am not going to be potty-training a toddler with a newborn to take care of :) So if we were spending money on disposable diapers, we would be spending about $931.84 over the course of 2 years. For one child. Craziness. At the rate we are buying disposable diapers currently, we are spending only $76.80 per year. We save about $389.12 a year because we choose to use cloth diapers.

We plan on using these same cloth diapers for at least one more child and since we plan on having around 4 children (this could change, of course, but this is what we had in mind when we bought the diapers,) the savings will add up considerably. I was concerned initially about how well the diapers would hold up. They have been incredible. I have no visible signs of wear on any of my diapers. The initial chunk of change invested was worth it! Plus, I make sure to follow the care instructions exactly (more on those in a later post.) They will be good to go for at least one more child, at least doubling our savings on diapers. Instead of spending $1,863.68 on disposable diapers for 2 kids for 2 years, we will be spending $307.20. THAT is a considerably large amount that is kept in our pockets as opposed to shelling that money out for diapers.

In summary, here are a few things that I've learned about the savings involved in cloth diapering:

  • Do your math. Figure out how much you are spending on disposable diapers. For some people, it is not more cost effective to cloth diaper. That's okay. This is not a good mom vs. bad mom thing. It just is what it is. Don't be sucked into some trend because you think it's saving you money. 
  • Search online for the best deal before you purchase your cloth diapers. It can save you loads of cash. A lot of places have coupons that you can use on anything in their store and if they sell cloth diapers - then there you go!
  • It's okay to get a cheap cloth diaper. Just make sure that you do the math and decide whether it's cost effective for you to do so. A $5-$8 cloth diaper may be worth it in the short term to not have to shell out the money, but if you have to replace it after a year because it's falling apart, it may not be worth it in the long term. 
  • If you do choose to shell out the money for a high-quality diaper, protect your investment. Read the papers that come with your diapers! Usually with the higher-quality diapers, there's a warranty. Read it! You find out very valuable information, like the fact that diaper rash cream voids the warranty. Also, read the care instructions on the diaper - do the method suggested for washing on the care label. This will protect the warranty and the company usually knows the best way to care for their product. :) 
Up next time - the "how" and some stigmas associated with cloth diapering!

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